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Spaulding v. Morse

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sued Defendant to compel payments for a trust for his son’s “care, custody, maintenance, and support.” The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If the instrument as a whole suggests that a particular result was desired by the parties, although not expressed by formal words, that defect may be supplied by implication and the underlying intention may be effectuated, provided it is sufficiently declared by the entire instrument.

    Facts.

    Richard Morse (Defendant) and his wife Ruth divorced. The divorce decree provided that Defendant was to make payments to a trustee for their son’s “care, custody, maintenance, and support.” Defendant was to pay to the trustee $1200 per year until their son entered “into some college, university or higher institution of learning beyond the completion of the high school grades” and $2200 per year for up to four years while he was attending the institution of higher education. The son joined the army after completing high school, and Defendant ceased making payments. The trustee, Spaulding, (Plaintiff) sued to compel payments. The trial court ruled for Plaintiff granting further monthly payments which would continue until completion of the son’s college education. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether one who has agreed to provide for his son’s education after completing high school must make the payments if the son enlists in the military.

    Held.

    No. The trial court’s ruling is reversed. If the instrument as a whole suggests that a particular result was desired by the parties, although not expressed by formal words, that defect may be supplied by implication and the underlying intention may be effectuated, provided it is sufficiently declared by the entire instrument.

    Discussion.

    The purpose of the provision in the divorce decree was intended to provide for their son’s maintenance while in custody of Ms. Defendant and for his education thereafter. After he completed high school he was inducted into the army and so was no longer in his mother’s custody, nor was he enrolled in an institution of higher education. Thus, neither of the purposes of the divorce decree was applicable at that time. The proper construction of the trust instrument is that the Defendant was not required under its terms to provide for the maintenance and education of the son while he was in the armed services. 


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